After a bloody Chicago weekend that left a dozen dead and another 62 wounded, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is facing a mounting political crisis -- with his rivals emboldened as they aim to unseat him in the looming mayoral election.
Several of Emanuel’s 10 challengers slammed the prominent Democrat for the city’s soaring crime and blamed him for everything from an understaffed police force to a lack of investment in Chicago’s economically downtrodden neighborhoods.
Emanuel has tried to fend off the attacks while calming an alarmed electorate, but the latest violence has only fueled the calls for political change in the February election.
“What happened over the weekend is absolutely horrific and unacceptable. It’s another tragic weekend in Chicago, and unfortunately, we’ve had too many of them,” former Chicago Public Schools CEO and mayoral candidate Paul Vallas said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “There is no substitution for providing the police resources we need to close this gap.”
Vallas blamed Emanuel for permitting the police department’s detective division to be “gutted through attrition” and accused him of shifting officers to various sections of the city for “political reasons.”
The harshest criticism came from two candidates with deep ties to the city’s beleaguered police department: former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot.
Stealing a page from President Trump’s playbook, McCarthy dubbed Emanuel “wasteful Rahm” in a tweet over the weekend and blasted the mayor for attending a Sunday afternoon event announcing $10 million in city upgrades to the downtown Riverwalk.
“Has wasteful Rahm even seen the South and West side? $10 MILLION would be a tremendous help to residents, especially children that live in poverty from these neighborhoods,” McCarthy tweeted. “Instead, he wants to waste more on an already perfect downtown attraction.”
McCarthy was fired by Emanuel in 2015 after the release of dashcam video showing a white police officer killing a black teenager by shooting him 16 times.
In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, he continued his attacks on the mayor.
"He hasn’t done anything to lower crime rates," McCarthy said. "He’s done exactly the opposite. He's created this political landscape that exists in this city based upon his own politics. … And that’s simply not acceptable."
He added: “People are dying in record numbers here. And that’s got to stop.”
Lightfoot said in a statement that Emanuel was only focused on ensuring public safety in certain neighborhoods and accused him of remaining silent in the face of what she called “a public health crisis.”
“Rahm Emanuel cannot sit this out—he’s the mayor, and our city is facing a public health crisis,” Lightfoot said. “Taking on gun violence goes far beyond policing: it’s about ending poverty and reversing decades of disinvestment through quality schools, career training, social services, and jobs in neighborhoods that have been ignored for too long.”
Speaking at a news conference on Monday alongside Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Emanuel called the outburst of violence “unacceptable” and said that Chicago is “a better city” than how it is portrayed.
"Our souls are burdened," Emanuel said. "It is unacceptable to happen in any neighborhood of Chicago. We are a better city."
Besides taking heat from his rivals in the mayoral race, Emanuel was also besieged on the national level with Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, blaming Emanuel — former President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff — and decades of "one party Democratic rule" for the violence in a series of tweets.
The former New York mayor also tweeted his support for McCarthy, a Democrat, referring to him as "Jerry" and calling him a "policing genius."
Misspelling Emanuel's last name, Giuliani tweeted: "[McCarthy] can do a lot better than Mayor Emmanuel who is fiddling while Chicago burns." Giuliani also falsely claimed that Chicago had "63 murders this weekend."
Last weekend, though, marked the worst violence of any single weekend in the city since 2016, when homicides in Chicago hit records that had not been seen for two decades.
The victims of the weekend shootings ranged in age from 11 to 63, according to police. One teenage girl died after being shot in the face. A teenage boy was fatally shot riding a bike Sunday afternoon. Other shootings took place at a block party and a funeral.
Most of the shootings happened in poor neighborhoods on the West and South Sides where gangs are entrenched, Johnson said, adding that so far there had been no arrests in any of the weekend shootings.
Days before the attacks, some 200 protesters marched through a well-to-do North Side neighborhood and briefly closed Lake Shore Drive, calling for more resources to stem violence in poor areas.
Tio Hardiman, one of the organizers of last week's rally, said members of the black community need to take the initiative by mediating truces between gangs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.